Development of a required 15-year plan for management of the 40,000-acre Vilas County Forest continued last week with the Forestry, Recreation & Land Committee hearing concerns on a proposed 26-mile Wisconsin River Trail and improved recreation access to Hunter Lake.

Marcia Rohr, owner of a private campground along the Wisconsin River between Conover and Land O’ Lakes, told the committee she favored some of the Wisconsin River Trail plan, but not all aspects of it.

“The 47 (camping) sites at Rohr’s Wilderness Tours cater to those who love the Headwaters because it’s remote and without commercialization,” she said. “I don’t see the need for additional camping on the river, but the boat landings and access points are really in need of improvement.”

Rohr did not support adding camp sites on the river at Rummels Road. 

“People can drive in and harass campers and it denigrates the camping experience,” she said. “We could be an alternative to the Boundary Waters in Minnesota because we’re non-commercialized.”

Rohr said even law enforcement asks them for help when they think there may be a missing party on a river trip.

“Since we are on the river all the time, we can work together,” said Rohr. “We can be ambassadors for the county. Since we are bringing people here, we need to protect it.”

Vilas County Forest Administrator Al Murray agreed with Rohr. 

“I’m in favor of starting with the landings first and maybe look at improving camp sites on other areas of county land without eliminating them,” said Murray. 

Committee member Art Kunde, who also lives on the upper stretches of the river, believed there was room for improvement.

“We’re expanding the River Trail to promote the county, but remember we must maintain and police these sites,” said Kunde.

Committee member Mike MacKenzie said improving the Wisconsin River Trail access could be important to the county.

“Kayaking is the fastest growing sport and they will come and we need to make this (River Trail) available to the public since we have an obligation to the public to use our public facilities,” said MacKenzie.

Department of Natural Resources (DNR) liaison Jill Nemic reminded the committee the plan will be amended a number of times over 15 years.

County board chairman and committee member Ron DeBruyne said these 15-year forest plans are designed to avoid surprises noting “this is kind of a wish list.”

Rohr invited the committee to “tour our facility and try to work together.”



Hunter Lake issues

Property owners on Hunter Lake addressed the committee on plans for improving the county-owned public access and day-use recreation park at the lake, objecting to improvements that might bring more people to use the 180-acre lake.

Paul Kitslaar, president of the lake association, said, “We question the need for three pavilions, but support removing the fire rings. The restrooms in the middle (of the park) are an eyesore and need to be camouflaged with plantings.”

He said the association also didn’t want improvements to the boat landing because that would encourage more boat access.

It was pointed out improvements made at the facility have to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“We have an obligation for making the public land available to the public,” said committee Chairperson Holly Tomlanovich.



The draft plan

The committee will continue to develop the 15-year forest management plan, which can be reviewed on the Vilas County Forestry Department web site at vilascountywi.gov. 

When the draft is completed, there will be a required public hearing before forwarding it to the county board and DNR for adoption.